I’ve been building, lately.
In the past week, my roommate and I have been working on an MVP for our new startup. It’s enthralling.
For someone who once tried to get his hands on every rendition of Steve Jobs film that existed and watched “The Social Network” six times, building a startup is my dream-come-true.
At least it was. Until you realize you have to deal with reality. This morning, I found myself on a Reddit page wondering why 90% of startups fail. Reasons varied from conflict among co-founders to a lack of product-market fit. And I couldn’t help but think: what if this happens to us?
I’m usually pretty good at hedging my bets. I understand that I’m not creating the next Facebook or Amazon. But, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was optimistic.
I think our product could offer a lot to people. I think it could change the way creators interact with their audience and introduce a new frame of reference for the creator economy.
So, how do I reconcile the idea that, on one hand, my startup is incredibly likely to fail and, on the other hand, I believe that the product will succeed.
Because the truth is that I don’t care. 90% — whatever. I’m not here to blow it out of the water, I’m here to build.
Side Project Success
Whatever you’re currently working on — it’s failure means very little.
Venture capital (VC) firms have learned something that the rest of us would be wise to understand: one massive success makes up for tens of failures.
VCs invest in tons of startups but few actually make them money. Many fail. Many are zombies (neither failures or successes). Few succeed.
But those that do succeed? They succeed big.
Why don’t we treat our side projects the same way?
Side projects are the best investment of time out there.
They define who we are.
Most of them simply won’t work out, but, if you keep iterating and learning, it’s likely something will.
The Sustainable Life
If you are building a side project for the results it might yield if you go big, you’re going to fail.
Side projects are a lifestyle. You go to your day job for the minimum time you need to. You spend the rest of your time building what you love.
You have to love this lifestyle — acknowledging that the day job keeps you stable and the side projects offer the potential to go big.
This blog is a side project. I’d have tons of fun writing for a good income. Is it likely I get to that point? Probably not — but, I don’t have to do this full-time. Side projects can power each other.
Escape Velocity & The Side Project Ecosystem
If one of your side projects is even a minor success, you can use it to power your other ones. Building a startup requires some capital. When I started writing, I never thought that it would enable me. But, here I am — the income I make from writing is paying for the business’s website.
It’s my side project ecosystem — a system in which my successes can power my new ideas. And I can keep doing this. I can keep doing it until one of my side projects reaches escape velocity. When it’d be stupid not to dedicate all my time to it.
Building your side project ecosystem means iterating and trying new things that enable you to live your best life. With each new project we commit to, we are creating opportunities to go big with what we love.
So, I hedged my opinion a little
One of my favorite writers on Medium, Eve Arnold, is a big advocate of keeping your day job and writing on the side. That’s awesome. But it’s not for me. Because for me — I would rather fail at building my startup and writing than succeed at anything else.
I’m doing this because I believe in it. Maybe I’m too optimistic about how much success I could build. I don’t really care.
When I see that 90% of startups fail, my choice is to figure out how to be that 10%. And I’ll keep failing, iterating, and building until I figure that out.